There is no one-size-fits-all mentor. We need different mentors for different questions and tasks. Let’s look at how to find the right mentors and how to convince them of mentoring us.
What is a mentor?
Let’s start by looking at what a mentor actually is. I define mentors as people who can help others with their knowledge and expertise in a certain field. This vague definition means everybody of us has already been a mentor because we all have some fields of interest where we have deep knowledge. It might have been in school. It might have been a funny chat filled with laughter with our best friend. If we helped somebody, we have been a mentor.
For instance, I’m the communications mentor of my dad. Whether it’s the phone line, cable TV, internet or the fax machine – his preferred tool – all questions and problems find their way to my open ear.
With that many mentors amongst us, finding the right one is just a matter of the right strategy.
Before we start searching
Let’s picture a moment when we have been a mentor for somebody else. What did we like about it and what did we dislike? What I noticed from myself and from discussing the topic with friends is this:
- The more we like the subject, the more we like talking about it.
- The mentee should already have informed himself and know the vocabulary so we can get straight to the subject and not have to start with Adam and Eve.
- We appreciate if we see our advice is actually helping the mentee.
There are many more impressions that come up when we picture our mentees. That gives us a pretty good map on what to avoid and what to do if we want to become a mentee.
- Mentors do not necessarily have to call themselves mentors.
- Mentors have to be competent in exactly the field we need help at.
- We should have developed a certain level of understanding before we contact them.
How to search for a mentor
First of all, we have to be clear about our questions and the topics we want to learn more about. Clear means, we have to get them out of our head and onto paper. Ideally, we can each of our questions into one clear sentence.
The next step is to research the questions from our list. Doing so, we will automatically come across potential mentors. Some may actually offer mentorships, others may just be incredibly competent in the topic. Some may be too busy to help us, others may feel flattered and appreciate the opportunity to share their knowledge. Finding mentors is a journey and we may need to try several paths until we find the right one.
Fun fact: We will already learn a lot whilst searching for mentors.
Good places to find mentors
There are places with a strong culture of helping others for free.
- Startup Hubs
- Events organized by Schools and Universities
- Google Campus https://campus.co
If you have a chance to visit London, Madrid, São Paulo, Seoul, Tel Aviv or Warsaw you can check out the free Google Campus. Surprisingly, there is not much information about participants and mentors found online. The best way to find out is by going there and making connections in the cafeteria. My suggestion is planning a full week for a Campus. I have rarely seen a more focused place to work.
How to approach a mentor
“Do you want to be my mentor?” Sounds a bit like “Do you want to marry me?” It comes with a feeling of responsibilities and duties. Asking for help on a clearly defined subject, therefore, promises a much higher success rate. When sending the first email or letter, it helps to change perspective. If we were a busy expert, what message would make us help somebody?
Searching for more perspectives
All humans are prey to a life-long bias. We all strive to seek approval of our theories. We eagerly consider everything in line with our theory as true, valid and correct and we often ignore everything that speaks against our theory. Searching for mentors, it may be wise talking with different mentors who have different perspectives.
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